By Payton Gift
Concerned community members addressed the Bellingham City Council about the housing crisis at a meeting on Feb. 10. Multiple speakers showed support for the protection of mobile home living spaces, saying they are one of the last affordable living options in Bellingham.
Rick Flug, who currently lives at Robin Lane 55+ Mobile Home Park, spoke to the council about affordable housing issues in the community. He said he is concerned about what may happen to mobile home parks in Bellingham as an option for affordable housing if the council neglects to protect them.
“There are about 900 different mobile homes in Bellingham in about nine or 10 different parks, and they house about 50% more people than are currently in our unsheltered population,” Flug said. “These people are just as vulnerable to having to pay a substantial amount of their income to rent.”
There are currently 10 mobile home parks in Bellingham, according to the city of Bellingham’s website. The website states that mobile homes make up approximately 16% of Bellingham’s affordable housing.
Christina Reed is the manager of Cresthaven Mobile Home Park located on Samish Way, and a member of the Manufactured Housing Communities of Washington.
Reed said that this association was one of the last lines of defense for the protection of affordable housing in Washington state.
Reed has been managing Cresthaven Mobile Home Park since May 2019. She said since the park was purchased by the investment group Ridgeview Asset Management in 2019, the space has improved tremendously and is a great option for affordable living.
A few of these improvements included installing new locking mailboxes, creating a community garden and adding more cameras in the park for safety.
Reed said that maintaining and protecting mobile home parks as an option for housing is necessary for ensuring the elderly population have a place to live.
“With these tenants who are living on a fixed income, they need the option of this housing. They can’t afford to pay a rising rent that is going up higher than their income,” Reed said.
Last December, the council unanimously approved ordinance number 2019-12-044. The ordinance temporarily protects and prohibits the redevelopment of any local mobile home park.
Assistant director of the Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department, Gregg Aucutt, said the council first put the moratorium in place to give the city time to investigate options for preserving the parks permanently.
“The concern is that mobile home parks have been disappearing across the state,” Aucutt said.
Councilmember Gene Knutson said mobile home parks have been a part of Bellingham for decades, citing his grandparents, who lived out their final years in a mobile home.
Knutson said what the city needs to do now is to rezone land for mobile home parks and other types of affordable housing.
“I do believe we need to extend the moratorium for another year to work out a solution, but it comes with a cost; landlords are jacking up the rent to force people out,” Knutson said. “We have to try and stop that if we can.”
Flug said that these parks serve as more than just affordable housing, but as a community that members can count on for support. He said most people at his park live on their own and would be isolated if not for their neighbors.
Flug didn’t see himself as someone who would live in a mobile home, but after his wife’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, medical care was too expensive and they had to sell their house.
“We really didn’t have any options,” he said. “But mobile home parks are honestly kind of a jewel because they provide community for people who very often live alone.”
Flug’s biggest concern is having the ground his home rests on be sold from right underneath him. That concern is why he wants the city council to continue to protect local mobile parks and other low-income housing options in Bellingham.